Northern midwesterners are laughing at the idiot drivers in Atlanta. Three inches of snow and the entire city shuts down. Drivers would run out of gas and abandon their cars and walk home. Schools could not get their kids home. God they’re idiots. That would never happen up here in the north. We know how to drive.
But us northerners don’t really understand what happened. The problem was not actually the snow and ice. The problem was Atlanta’s inherent traffic problem. The snow and ice were merely an exacerbation… a catalyst… of the traffic problem.
Other than Chicago, midwesterners rarely have to deal with traffic. And I’m not talking about a five minute delay to work because of rubber-necking. I’m talking about institutionally ingrained traffic.
I never lived in Atlanta, which is famous for its insidious traffic. But I did live in Maryland and had to deal with the Baltimore and Washington DC beltways on a regular basis. It was the first time I ever truly knew what traffic was.
If I drove to school on a Sunday, when there was no traffic, I could get there in 20 minutes. However, during the week, the exact same drive could take an hour and a half…or longer, depending on when I made the attempt. And this happens every single morning and every single evening. Sitting in traffic and waiting is just a part of driving. You plan for it. You plan around it. But, eventually you get used to it.
So here’s what happened the Tuesday of the snow dusting in Atlanta. Everyone attempted to go home at the exact same time. So think about a 20 minute drive, which takes an hour and a half because of traffic, and then multiply that traffic exponentially so that nearly everyone is on the road at the same time.
Even if there was no snow or ice, the city would have shut down under that circumstance. Cars would have run out of gas. Cars would have been abandoned. People would have started walking. And plenty of kids never would have made it home. Without a single flake of snow falling!
That’s what I mean when I say the snow merely exacerbated the problem. The traffic problem is there. It’s always there. The snow just pushed everyone to leave at the same time. That caused more gridlock. Which caused the city to shut down.
What I’m saying is that if you were visiting Atlanta the day of the storm, you and your 4×4 truck would have been stuck in traffic, just like everyone else.
Update – 2/1/14:
Here’s a pretty good article on Slate explaining why Atlanta’s traffic problems are so screwed up.
Recently a Congressman by the name Michael Grimm threatened to attack a reporter for daring to ask questions about his personal campaign finances rather than softball questions about the event he attended.
Most people talking about the incident are shocked that a US Congressmen, and former FBI agent, could do such a horrible thing. To me, that’s not the shocking thing. The shocking thing is that this incident fully demonstrates how we no longer have a free press.
Here’s Grimm’s first explanation, rather than apology.
I was doing NY1 a favor by rushing to do their interview first in lieu of several other requests. The reporter knew that I was in a hurry and was only there to comment on the State of the Union, but insisted on taking a disrespectful and cheap shot at the end of the interview, because I did not have time to speak off-topic. I verbally took the reporter to task and told him off, because I expect a certain level of professionalism and respect, especially when I go out of my way to do that reporter a favor. I doubt that I am the first Member of Congress to tell off a reporter, and I am sure I won’t be the last.
To Grimm, and others in politics, it’s unprofessional and disrespectful for a reporter to ask real questions. A “professional” reporter should politely ask softball questions so as not to embarrass the politician. That’s the way the system is supposed to work, for Grimm and others. And that’s why Grimm got so pissed. Because the reporter didn’t follow the rules.
And that’s much scarier to me than a politician threatening someone. The fact that our entire “free press,” which is supposed to be watching out for us, getting real stories, and getting to the truth, is barred from asking questions about real stories or the truth. That’s fucking scary.
Essentially, the entire Fourth Estate is nothing more than a press agent for the rich and powerful. The rich and powerful have messages they want to get out and facts they need buried. Journalism’s job is to report those messages and bury those facts. It’s all neat and tidy. The rich and powerful are free to do whatever they want. And the press get access, meaningless access, but access, nonetheless. And any reporter that dares to ask real questions is painted as rude and unprofessional and is not to be trusted.
Rickenbacker guitars. From the the Beatles, the Byrds, to the Bangles, they were awesome. All you needed was a Rickenbacker guitar, a Vox amp, and some catchy ass songs. And the money would just pour in. Those were the days.
I’m in the market to buy a Vox amp (either a AC15C1-PL or maybe a AC30C2-PL, depending how much I can get for some trades) so I immediately thought about getting a Rick, too.
I’ve had so many guitars over the decades. Mostly Fenders, MIM Teles and Strats. I’ve had some really nice ones, too. An American made ’68 Strat and ’74 Fender Telecaster Deluxe. But I’ve never even come close to owning, or even playing, a Rickenbacker. A friend had one and it was so precious and cost so much, he would not even let me play it. Not that I wanted to. I didn’t want to even risk scratching it. Ricks were fucking special.
But now that I’m an adult and have a “real” job I thought, I should treat myself to a Rickenbacker. But it ain’t happening. They’re not priced to sell. Even a used low-end Rick will cost you over a grand.
In a way that might seem awesome. Both Gibson and Fender have “sold out” by selling cheap knock offs. Both Gibson and Fender have their high end American made stuff. The next lower level is their Mexican and Japanese made stuff. Then their lowest level is their respective Epiphone and Squire brands. So it might seem cool that Rickenbacker refuses to buckle on quality and continues to only make the best.
But the downside is that the high prices keep Rickenbackers out of the hands of the youngest musicians. Young musicians have plenty of options to buy Gibson and Fender guitars. They’ll take the Strat, Tele, or Les Paul sound and make it their own. As they get better and more successful they can upgrade the electronics or just get better guitars all together. But, they’re gonna be stuck with either the Fender or Gibson mindset.
The world has lost generations of young guitar players who could have bought Ricks and innovated, but could not afford to. E.g., a 16 year old kid who has never heard of the Byrds, but buys a Rick from a pawnshop because he liked the sound. What new styles of music would he have developed? What new genres have been lost? The only people who use can afford to use Ricks are basically retro artists. Tom Petty, the Bangles, REM and others, are just doing modernized versions of what the Byrds and other 60s acts started.
Rickenbacker’s high prices have essentially trapped their guitars and unique sound into a time capsule. Adored on their pedestals, but static in use. And I find that sad.
It’s interesting to think about why some Christians feel a need to convert to Islam, and then adopt an extremeist and violent view of it. People such as Colleen LaRose, aka, Jihad Jane, Adam Pearlman, aka, Azzam the American, and Samantha Lewthwaite, aka, the White Widow, to name a few.
Such a conversion is especially perplexing to Atheists, as we tend to think that following a religion is some sort of cultural affliction.
For example, when you’re born into a culture where blood types dictate your future, where electric fans can kill you, and liberty is more important than saving lives, you tend to believe such things yourself.
Religion is no different, we think. When all your family and friends follow the same religion, and those who don’t are ostracized and are considered “black sheep,” you’ll tend to go with the flow and accept those religious concepts as the truth.
But I think religion is more than that. For some, it’s primal need. And it’s that primal need that causes some people to change religions. Even to a more violent faith.
The one commonality all three converters listed above had was a desire for certainty. They were all raised Christian, but all in a vague way. For example, Colleen LaRose was raped by her biological father as a child. That’s certainly not very Christian.
Adam Pearlman’s family consisted of Christians, Jews, and atheists. While the family lived outside of contemporary society in what appears to be a communal farm, there was no real dogma to follow. Like plenty of other kids at the time, Adam started getting into Death Metal and rebelling. But it’s hard to rebel against a hippie lifestyle. You can only do that by imposing order on yourself.
Samantha Lewthwaite came from a broken family, but found solace in the structure of local Muslim families, who she tended to hang out with. Such structure gave Samantha the comfort she apparently needed.
When Christians talk about the growth of Islam, they tend to think of it in terms of birth rates. That Muslims are having more kids than Christians. But I think that as Christianity declines, both through declining birth rates and growing secularism, we’ll have to consider the large number of westerners who will convert to Islam.
Some people need something to believe in. And a quasi spiritual/secular system will not be enough. They’ll need rules, and the rules of society are not enough because such rules are flexible. They need absolute morality, because without it, they won’t know how to act.
Knowing they’re doing the “right” thing, even when they’re blowing up innocent people, makes them feel safe and gives their lives meaning. As Christianity declines, such people will still be with us. Let’s hope they don’t end up against us.
As fans of Breaking Bad know, the series ended, in part, with Saul Goodman heading off to Nebraska to assume a new identity and manage a Cinnabon. But instead of showing us that life, the actor who plays Saul, Bob Odenkirk, has signed up to do a prequel television series. So we’re gonna learn about Saul’s past, not about his future. As I’ll explain below, I think that’s gonna be a lot more interesting.
Anyway, back to Saul’s Nebraska adventure. I wonder whether Saul’s moving to Nebraska to assume a new identity was his first time at assuming a new identity, and more importantly, whether he’s actually even an attorney. My guess is that it’s not his first time and that he’s not actually an attorney.
First, his real name is not Goodman. As fans of the show know, he’s not Jewish but is actually Irish, and his last name is McGill.
So at one time he used the name Saul McGill. He did not use it in college. As fans might remember, he graduated from University of American Samoa.
But that raises more questions. First, if his name was Saul McGill, when did he change it? In other words, did he change it before attending the University of Samoa? Or did he simply assume the identify of someone who graduated from the University of Samoa with the name Saul Goodman.
The next issue is that the University of Samoa is not a law school. It appears to be a liberal arts school. So why didn’t Saul have his law school diploma displayed in his office?
According to an interview with actor Bob Odenkirk with Rolling Stone magazine, Saul did not go to law school:
How much backstory did you create on Saul? Did he go to a good law school? Did he make law review?
No, he went to the University of American Samoa ? the diploma is on the wall of his office. He barely passed the bar.
So Saul did not go to law school, but he did pass the bar. I know of no state in our union that allows people to take the bar without first going through law school. So if Saul did not go to law school, the only way he could have taken the exam would have been by faking it or cheating somehow, e.g., assuming someone else’s identity.
Let’s recap. He was probably born Saul McGill. At some point he changed his name or assumed the identify of a Saul Goodman. Because it would have been highly coincidental for Saul to change his name to Goodman to attend the University of Samoa, and then assume the identify of some law school graduate with the exact same name, I don’t think it happened that way.
It makes more sense if Saul wanted to be an attorney, for him to work backwards. In other words, Saul must have found someone who graduated from a law school, but then who died or moved out of the country or decided to not take the exam. Saul must have assumed that guy’s identify first.
He then worked backwards to “get” an undergrad degree. It’s unlikely Saul would have actually went to a University because by then he was already a licensed attorney. So it would make more sense to assume he didn’t go to any undergrad university. Which is why Saul used a “foreign” university. Because then you don’t deal with circumstances with meeting people who attended the same time you did or who knew people who attended the same time you did. It would also make it harder for anyone to verify Saul’s attendance, because they’d have to contact a foreign university. And even if someone did such an investigation, the fact that it’s a foreign country means that such files proving his attendance were probably lost.
And I’ll get one more bit out of the way. Saul seemingly has no friends or family. In other words, when he’s going to Nebraska, there is seemingly no one to say goodbye to. Even at the top of his legal game, he’s a ghost who can pack up with no emotional or human baggage. To me that proves that done it before. Because he had already lost his friends and family the first time.
So my prediction is that the prequel will not be a boring law show with Saul Goodman protecting the rights of criminals week after week. My prediction is that the show will explain Saul’s mysterious and criminal past. Most likely he won’t even be an attorney when the show starts. He’ll be some guy either hiding from the law or from criminals and will decide to assume a new identify. In the show he’ll find an opportunity to take the bar exam, either a friend of his who went to law school was murdered, or something else. I’ll also predict a scene of Saul photoshopping his Samoa diploma.
I was worried that Saul Goodman’s prequel would boring. Now I’m looking forward to it.
Update: I was thinking that someone could argue that if Saul took a new identity and was hiding, why would he tell other people about it by revealing his real name? That’s actually quite easy, because the original threat is gone. If Saul went into hiding because some criminal madman was trying to kill him, once the madmen was killed himself, Saul no longer had a reason to hide. However, as a semi-successful attorney, he had a reason to continue the charade.
A recent Big Bang Theory points out that Indiana Jones was completely useless in the movie the Raiders of the Lost Ark. In a nutshell, if Indy had simply taken the month off, the Nazi’s would have obtained the Ark, opened it up, and would have been killed. In other words, even if he did nothing, the exact same ending would have occurred.
I’ve noticed a similar problem with the Terminator and Terminator 2. The only way Skynet’s plan to kill Sarah Connor could have worked is if the terminator failed.
Let me explain, if the terminator had killed Sarah, John Connor never would have been born. And in that case, a terminator never would have been sent back to kill her. And if the terminator was never sent back, Skynet could not have been invented because there would have been no advanced future-tech to base it on.
So Sarah was not a hero at all. All her actions led to Skynet being created and the robot war to occur. She should have simply allowed the terminator to kill her and the whole thing would have worked itself out in the long run.
Heck, merely by not sending back the terminator, Kyle Reese never would have been sent back, thus, John Connor never would have been conceived. Yes, the robots are the main reason John Connor exists. They should have just killed Kyle in their present and sent the future-tech back to Cyberdyne Systems in the past. But that would have been a much more boring movie: A solider from the future being sent back to the past to stop a robot also sent to the past from delivering a package. The Delivernator!
Apparently Wikipedia has a problem. Despite more and more people accessing it, fewer and fewer people are working as editors.
I can understand why. Every time I tried editing on Wikipedia, my work was ignored. I’m not talking about huge edits or entire articles I’ve written. I’ve got no time for that. I’m talking about minor but important changes. I’ve fixed grammatical errors or tightened up the writing to make it easier to read. I’ve also added citations where there were none. Wikipedia has a serious problem with participants who treat articles as being analogous to emails. They’re written and published without proofreading. The hard part of writing is not the writing. It’s the monotonous, but necessary rewriting.
But every time I’ve done that, every single time, within an hour the materials I fixed were back. Apparently the editors in charge want poorly written materials, complete with grammatical errors, and without citations to the supporting facts. I got tired of making such fixes, so I quit. I’m sure plenty of others have, too.
It’s quite common for comic fans to make fun of the Wonder Twins. While Jayna could at least turn into nearly any animal, Zan could only turn into various forms of water, e.g., buckets of water, steam, or ice cages, complete with creepy faces. The Super Friends TV show played the Wonder Twins off as comic relief.
Recently the super hero parody show, Teen Titans Go, made fun of the Wonder Twins. They needed to hire someone to replace Beast Boy, so they hired Jayna. They kept Zan as a receptionist to answer the phone.
Here’s the deal with Zan, he’s totally fucking more powerful than Jayna. He’s also more powerful that most other super heroes, with maybe the exception of Superman or Captain Marvel.
To understand the full extent of Zan’s power, you have to watch a Super Friends episode entitled Joy Ride:
In it some teenagers go for a joy ride in a plane. Which is a very bizarre scenario, since very few kids are working towards getting their pilot licenses. Anyway, these kids are in this plane, with mechanical problems, and the Wonder Twins have to rescue them.
Jayna turns into an eagle. But to avoid the kids dying in a crash, Zan turns into a lake. A mother fucking lake. At least a mile in diameter and deep enough where you can’t see the tops of the trees in this huge forest.
Think about facing down a criminal and being able to create an instant lake. Fuck the criminal, Zan would be able to fucking drown an army of bad guys. And remember, he can turn into ice instantly, so he’d turn that wave into ice and freeze them. And it’s not as if he could get shot or killed while he’s water. He’s completely invulnerable. Boil him, and he turns into steam, surrounds you, makes you breath him in, and then changes back to human form from the inside, killing the bad guy in the process.
Actually he’d never actually have to fight at all. Whether it’s one bad guy or a million, he’d just turn into a sufficient quantity of water, freeze, and he’s done. Total. Fucking. Bad ass.
Update: I just checked out the Wikipedia entry for the Wonder Twins, and Zan is even more powerful than I thought. He’s able to turn into weather patterns including whirlpools, blizzards, monsoons, waterspouts and typhoons. He was also able to turn into a frost giant. And last but not least, fuck all that talk about turning into a lake of water, because according to Wikipedia he’s able to turn into liquid fucking nitrogen. Totally. Fucking. Bad Fucking Ass.
2nd Update: The real problem with the Wonder Twins is that they were created specifically for the Super Friends television program. That cartoon existed back in a time when it was illegal for punches to be thrown in kids’ programing. To put it another way, it existed in a time when super hero programing was totally fucking lame.
We don’t think Batman or Superman is lame because of the Super Friends. But that’s because we recognize it was their time on the Super Friends which as lame, not the characters themselves. But because the Wonder Twins started out on the Super Friends, they started out lame, we think of them as lame.
And interestingly, according to the above Wikipedia link, the powers conceived for the Wonder Twins were specifically toned down to not overshadow Superman. So even in the world of the Super Friends, the Wonder Twins were supposed to be bad asses, but for the dastardly deeds committed by the villainous producers of the show.
Theists are perplexed by atheists. They cannot imagine a world or living without their particular god. Hopefully this post, which I’ve written in the form of a letter to a Christan, will help theists better understand atheism.
Is there anything I could do to prove to you there is no god? The Bible says there is a firmament in space. Would the fact there is no firmament convince you the Bible is wrong and there is no god? The Bible says the earth is flat and has four corners. Would the fact that the earth is round and has no corners convince you the Bible is wrong and there is no god? In the Bible Jesus claimed he would return in the lifetime of those listening. He didn’t. Does that convince you the Bible is wrong and there is no god?
Of course not. I cannot disprove god to you. It’s impossible. You don’t believe in god because of evidence. You believe because of faith, evidence for things unseen.
You might claim to use “evidence” in your daily life to prove god’s existence, but you don’t actually rely on it. For example, if someone you know survives cancer, you might say, “God saved my friend, how could anyone deny him?” But when a different friend does in fact die, you don’t say, “Gee, Bob died, maybe there is no God.” In other words, regardless of what happens in your life, you believe. Even if the most terrible and horrific event happens, you rest assured in your faith that it’s all a part of god’s plan. Evidence means nothing to your faith.
And that’s the difference between you and an atheist: You have faith. An atheist does not. That’s it. It’s really that simple.
You don’t choose to believe in god. We don’t choose not to believe. It has nothing to do with choice. It has everything to do with faith, for you, and the lack thereof, for us.
Trying to prove to us that god exists with evidence is as pointless as trying to disprove god to you with evidence. It won’t work with you. And it won’t work with us.
I found a hilarious article written by a public school educator discrediting the myth that young people are better at understanding technology. He goes through some hilarious examples from his work experience to show younger people who can’t use computers:
A kid puts her hand up in my lesson. ‘My computer won’t switch on,’ she says, with the air of desperation that implies she’s tried every conceivable way of making the thing work. I reach forward and switch on the monitor, and the screen flickers to life, displaying the Windows login screen. She can’t use a computer.
A teacher brings me her school laptop. ‘Bloody thing won’t connect to the internet.’ she says angrily, as if it were my fault. ‘I had tonnes of work to do last night, but I couldn’t get on-line at all. My husband even tried and he couldn’t figure it out and he’s excellent with computers.’ I take the offending laptop from out of her hands, toggle the wireless switch that resides on the side, and hand it back to her. Neither her nor her husband can use computers.
Well, these examples are hilarious to geeks, but to anyone else they’d think, “How were we supposed to know the solution?”
And that question distills the difference between a person who can use computers and those who can’t. It all boils down to the two different ways we learn. Some of us learn by doing. Some learn by being told.
Most college work is the latter. I call them regurgitation classes. The professor writes stuff on the board. You write it down in your notes. Then you regurgitate it on the test.
But that’s not how geeks learn. We learn by doing, by exploring, by eliminating possibilities, by testing, and experimenting. Here’s a blog post about the process I went through to fix a friend’s computer. The solution could not have been found in a book or a web help forum. The solution could only have been found through trial and error.
But geeks use that to solve nearly all problems. Heck, we do that for every new bit of hardware and software we get, whether we’re having a problem or not. As I’ve said before, a normal person asks, “What can this technology do for me?” A geek asks, “What I can get this technology to do?”
We want to change the color scheme, we dig into the settings, we want to change the behavior of a program, we dig through the registry, we want to speed up a repetitive task, we create a batch file. We love doing this sort of stuff. One time a geeky professor was talking about a computer problem he had. I knew the answer and tried to tell him. He interrupted me and said, “Finding the solution is all the fun.”
Here’s another person from the article above who does not know how to use a computer, and it perfectly explains the regurgitation process.
A kid knocks on my office door, complaining that he can’t login. ‘Have you forgotten your password?’ I ask, but he insists he hasn’t. ‘What was the error message?’ I ask, and he shrugs his shoulders. I follow him to the IT suite. I watch him type in his user-name and password. A message box opens up, but the kid clicks OK so quickly that I don’t have time to read the message. He repeats this process three times, as if the computer will suddenly change its mind and allow him access to the network. On his third attempt I manage to get a glimpse of the message. I reach behind his computer and plug in the Ethernet cable. He can’t use a computer.
That is an example of a person being told how to fix the problem by the computer, but simply ignoring it. Heck, simply refusing to even read it.
You might think this goes against my regurgitation theory, but it doesn’t. The thing is, he was never taught to read the warning and follow those instructions. So he didn’t. In fact, Windows gives so many ridiculous warnings that he’s been taught to just click “OK” and get rid of them.
So he ignored the warning/solution and continued trying again and again to do what he was taught to do, even though it wasn’t working. The only “solution” he could come up with was to seek someone out to tell him the answer. Because he simply lacks any capability to figure it out himself. Even when the machine is telling him exactly what to do! It’s not that he can’t use computers, he can. As long as he regurgitates everything he knows.
This regurgitative way of learning explains lots of idiocy in the world. First, it explains dogmatism. Think about any dogmatic group, for example, hard core feminists, animal rights activists, religious kooks, etc., these people are taught in class rooms, at lectures, and in churches to believe a certain way. They lack any ability to figure out a different way, so they believe the certain way absolutely and without question.
That’s why religious people get so angry when confronted. Here’s a story about an atheist who, during a pro-christian anti-gay protest, held up a sign which simply said: “Rainbows = God Having Gay Sex.” For that he was yelled at and physically threatened.
That’s why feminists pull fire alarms rather than let someone they disagree with speak in public.
And that’s why animal rights activists and anti-abortionists will consider murder, even though it completely contradicts their beliefs. Because reconciling their beliefs with a contrary position is simply impossible. In their minds, eliminating the other position is their only option.
Second, the regurgitative way of learning, or not learning, is what causes bizarre beliefs such as this:
Most people could figure out that it would be impossible for Venus to get between the moon and the earth. But this guy and people like him lack that ability, so they believe it because they heard it.
Here’s another funny story. My wife was at an educational conference in Texas. An educational conference, so people there were educated with at least a four year college degree. She was chatting with someone from Texas. This woman told my wife that Texas has the biggest lakes in the world. My wife, coming from Michigan and the Great Lakes, disagreed. The woman from Texas said something along the lines of, “Well, the Great Lakes aren’t that big. You can see across them, right?” My wife replied that the Great Lakes are so big you can’t see across them, and that shut up the woman from Texas. My wife said the woman from Texas “got real quiet and looked like she was about to start crying.”
And here’s the bizarre part. At some point in her life that woman from Texas must have seen a map of the United States/North America. And upon seeing that map, she must have seen the Great Lakes. But despite seeing the evidence that the Great Lakes are bigger, she couldn’t figure out that Texas does not have the biggest lakes in the world. She continued believing that Texas’ lakes are bigger, because someone told her that everything is bigger in Texas. (Which if you know anyone from Texas, is taught in Texas as the absolute truth.)
So the educationalist computer guy from above is right. Most people can’t use computers, and the fact that they’re young doesn’t change that. No matter how young someone is, if they learn by regurgitation, they will not be able to to truly use computers. And while training, i.e., more regurgitative learning, might make them less ignorant, it will never make them able to fix new problems on their own.